October 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 18
One Body Animated by One Spirit (3)
The "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5 is the real, inner, spiritual
baptism: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether
we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all
made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13). This makes us living
members of the "one body" of the church, enabling us to believe the
"one faith" and subjecting us to our "one Lord" (Eph. 4:4-5).
Some err by teaching two (or more) inner, spiritual baptisms, such as
Pentecostals or second-blessing advocates. They reckon that all
Christians are baptized by the Spirit into Christ (regeneration), but
that only some Christians are baptized by Christ into the Spirit
(second blessing). By definition, this is not only false but also
schismatic, for there is "one baptism." This is why a biblical and
Reformed church must not permit Pentecostals and Charismatics to be
members, for their heresy is necessarily divisive.
There are also errors regarding water baptism. Anabaptism rejects the
baptism of the children of believers, even though the Bible calls such
"holy" (I Cor. 7:14), members of the covenant and citizens of the
kingdom. Those churches which allow both paedobaptists and
credobaptists as members cannot be truly united, because they have two
views on (water) baptism and thus two views on the nature and
membership of the church. The scriptural, Reformed faith is that there
is one spiritual baptism, signified and sealed in one water baptism,
both of believers and their seed (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A.
The "one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4:6) is the Triune God. The
"all" here does not refer to all mankind head for head; it is all the
saints in the "one body" of the church. The Triune God’s being "above
all" means that He is over all the body. That He is "through all"
means He pervades the church. That He is "in you all" means He is
present in all the members of Christ by His indwelling Spirit.
Ephesians 4:6 is the goal and climax of the seven "ones" of Ephesians
4:4-6. To be filled with God with Him in us by the Spirit! This is the
privilege and goal of the church as the body of Jesus Christ!
What an emphasis on the unity of the church in Ephesians 4:4-6: "one
body," "one spirit," "one hope," "one Lord," "one faith," "one
baptism" and "one God and Father of all." What is missing from this
list of seven "ones"? One pope! Romanism sees this as necessary for
church unity, yet here in Ephesians 4, where there is the greatest
emphasis on unity in the epistle whose theme is the church as the body
of Christ, there is no mention of any Roman pontiff. True church unity
is found where the "one body" is animated through "one baptism" by the
"one Spirit" and so possesses "one hope" and "one faith" in "one Lord"
to the glory of the "one God and Father"—according to the Bible. This
is not the unity in which the World Council of Churches is interested.
The Place of Children in the Covenant (1)
Question: "Are children in the covenant of grace upon baptism
or are only the elect members after conversion? With whom
was the covenant of works made? The visible or the invisible
church? How does all that work out?"
This question from a brother in Australia really consists of
two questions: one concerns the place of children in the
covenant; the other has to do with the covenant of works.
Although they are related, we will treat them separately and
in different articles.
The questioner presents two options: either children are
brought into the covenant at baptism or they become members
of the covenant upon conversion. Neither of these two
options is correct. Scripture and our Reformed creeds teach
that children are brought into the covenant either in
earliest infancy (prior to baptism) or when their parents
are converted and brought to faith in Christ. The exception
is that adults on the mission field are brought into the
covenant through faith worked by the Spirit and by means of
the preaching of the gospel. But these are adults who have
not belonged to the covenant in their generations.
The children of believers who are born in the line of the
covenant are members of the covenant at the moment of birth
or even prior to birth. On the mission field when parents
are converted, their children are also saved. Paul tells the
Philippian jailer that upon his repentance and faith in
Christ, both he and his house would be saved (Acts 16:31).
Peter tells the Jews converted at Pentecost, "For the
promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that
are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call"
There is a great deal of dispute over this question. Baptists,
for example, refuse to baptize children because they hold to
believers’ baptism, that only those who confess faith in
Christ may be baptized. But many, even within Reformed
circles, although they baptize children, reckon that these
baptized children are not really in the covenant until they
believe in Christ and walk in obedience to God.
Both Baptists and those Reformed who deny that children are in
the covenant hold to a view of the covenant which makes the
covenant conditional. The covenant is defined as an
agreement between God and man with various promises, threats
and conditions. The covenant can only be realized when man
fulfils various conditions. Obviously, babies and children
cannot fulfil conditions.
But a conditional covenant is the death of sovereign grace. If
grace is sovereign, God is able to save babies as well as
adults. What possible objection could be raised against such
sovereign power of God? If the covenant is not conditional
(and it is not) then God alone takes into His covenant
salvation whom He wills.
In Scripture, we read of babies (even unborn) who were taken
into God’s covenant. God chose Jeremiah to be His prophet
and saved and sanctified him before his birth: "Before I
formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest
forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee
a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5).
When Mary, the mother of our Lord, came to the home of
Elizabeth to tell her the message the angel Gabriel had
brought her, Mary did not know she was pregnant with Christ,
nor did Elizabeth know this. But Elizabeth was also pregnant
with John the Baptist, and John’s work was to announce
Christ’s coming. He began that work at the very moment he
leaped in the womb of His mother, announcing to her and Mary
that they were all in the presence of the promised Messiah
(Luke 1:41-45). John, we are told, leaped in the womb of his
mother "for joy," a fruit of the Spirit (44; Gal. 5:22)—a
clear indication of the fact that John was regenerated
before he was born.
When mothers in Israel brought their children to Jesus to be
blessed, and persisted even when the disciples tried to
discourage them, Jesus insisted that these mothers be
permitted to do this: "Suffer little children, and forbid
them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of
heaven" (Matt. 19:14). It is clear from this passage and the
parallel passages in Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17 that
among these children were little babies, infants in their
mothers’ arms. Yet they too are in the kingdom.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jehovah is
the God of believers and their seed. He establishes His
covenant with the children of believers, as well as with
their parents (Gen. 17:7). Our children have God as their
Baptism does not bring children into the covenant; children
are baptized because they are already in the covenant.
Baptism is a sign and seal, administered to children of
believers, that signifies and seals that God saves believers
and their seed. It is a sign and seal of God’s gracious way
of working in the generations of believers.
But there remains one problem, to which the questioner refers:
Are all the children of believers saved? This is the
question that inevitably arises when the truth of God’s
covenant is explained as the Bible teaches it.
The very obvious answer to this question is: No, not all the
children of believers who are baptized are saved. This was
true among the children of Abraham and Isaac. It was also
true of the nation of Israel throughout its history, as you
This is also true in the New Testament. By no means does God
save all our children—to make it very personal.
Scripture explains that this is God’s rule in Romans 9:6-13.
Though both Jacob and Esau were born from believing parents
and, though, in fact, Esau was the eldest, God told Rebekah
their mother that "the elder [i.e., Esau] shall serve the
younger [i.e., Jacob]" (Gen. 25:23). This is interpreted in
Scripture itself to mean that God loved Jacob and hated Esau
(Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:12-13). And so it was throughout the
nation’s history. The wicked Israelites, born in the line of
the covenant, were constantly a thorn in the flesh of the
true Israelites and led the nation astray into the service
So it is today. God tells us through Paul that it was never
His intention to save all those baptized, neither in Old
Testament Israel, nor in all the generations of believers:
"For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom.
What determines who are saved among the children of believers
and who are not? Paul makes it very clear in Romans 9 that
it is not the difference between those who fulfil certain
conditions of the covenant and those who do not. Nor is the
difference that some accept the promises of the covenant by
faith and walk in obedience. The sole determining factor is
God’s sovereign decree of election and reprobation (Rom.
9:11-18). This decree not only divides the church from the
world; it divides the elect covenant children from the
reprobate seed who are born in the sphere of the covenant.
People do not like to hear this in our day and they engage in
elaborate theological squirming and wriggling to avoid this
clear teaching of Scripture. Yet it is this truth, set forth
in many places in Scripture and not only Romans 9, that
expresses sharply the absolute sovereignty of God in all His
works, including the salvation of His church. It is, indeed,
painful for believing parents when their own children go
astray (I cannot think of anything more painful), but God’s
people bow in humble submission to His will and humbly give
thanks that He saves even one of their children, and perhaps
more; for even this they do not deserve.
But there is another question that must be answered. If we
know from Scripture that all the children of believers are
not saved, why must we still baptize them all? This question
is one that is inevitably raised by the Baptists, and is
seen by many as being the nail that seals the Reformed view
in a coffin. Baptists boast that they baptize only
believers, for only believers are incorporated into God’s
Now, apart from anything else, this claim of the Baptists is
not even true. They may indeed wait with baptism until a
person makes confession of faith, but many who make such a
profession of their faith show in their lives that they are
not, after all, truly children of the covenant. They go
astray; they forsake their church; they live ungodly lives;
they never repent—even though they once professed their
faith and were baptized. So the Baptist position is no
guarantee at all that only believers are baptized.
Also wrong is the position of some that baptism means that all
baptized children are included in the covenant, but that the
covenant is conditional and dependent for its realization on
man’s fulfilment of conditions. This view, taught by some
within the Reformed community, is carried to its extreme by
the Federal Vision. Those who hold to the Federal Vision
claim not only that all those baptized are actually in the
covenant, but that they are all regenerated and given
salvation in Christ. But whether these persevere in their
salvation and are finally brought to heaven is quite another
matter. They may very well lose their salvation by their
failure to fulfil the conditions of the covenant, and so go
lost after all. This is dangerous Arminian theology, guilty
of denying all the five points of Calvinism, and corrupting
the great, towering truth of God’s absolute sovereignty. We
must have none of this. Only elect believers and their
children are included in the covenant of grace. They are,
sovereignly and by grace alone, brought into the covenant
and preserved in the covenant.
But we have not yet answered the question: Why are all
the children of believers to be baptized? And why does God
command that all children of believers be baptized? These
questions bring us back to the question: Why did God command
that all the children of believers were circumcised as a
sign and seal of the covenant? We reserve this question for
our next article in the News. Prof. Hanko
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